I often wonder if some people think of Christians as some sort of Happy Club that is nothing more than brainwashing which makes you forget you have problems once you believe in Jesus. The image that comes to mind is that of a Stepford wife, happily slaving away working at the church bake sale and spouting out scripture verses that try to explain away every difficult situation without ever admitting that life itself, is sometimes not always great. But this depiction could not be further from the truth.
The Seriousness of Our Plight
The truth is Christians also face difficult lives. We’re unhappy about the same things that non-Christians are too. I hate paying taxes, and I grumble about people who take a parking spot in front of me. I sometimes get depressed over personal issues and I occasionally get irritated with my boss (okay, a lot). And I too am angered and hurt when I lose someone to death, especially someone who didn’t deserve to die.
But death is exactly what we all deserve. The Bible says that the wages of sin are death (Rom 6:23). Repayment for the sin that entered the world when Adam and Eve ate from the tree that God said not to, is death.
Why Do We Deserve Death?
It’s hard to understand why God would say that we deserve death. After all, we didn’t sin in the Garden of Eden that was Adam and Eve, not us. But it’s because of Adam’s sin, that we are now born into sin’s curse. Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned, Romans 5:12. It’s because of this curse that life is difficult to live through in this world. Genesis recounts that God said to Adam, …cursed is the ground because of you, through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. (Gen. 3:17) There it is in black and white, and we can’t expect life to be any different. Life is tough!
People Do Good, Even the Non-Christian Ones.
Despite the fact that life is difficult, it’s still encouraging to see people want to do good. Something in us is moved when we see people reach out and do good for each other. When I see celebrities or well known people giving their time to work with impoverished nations to bring clean drinking water, or teach a village education they’ve never had-that’s good! But good works are nothing more than just good works. Do they give advice, provide protection? Does doing good bring financial security? Can good works help us escape death and enter eternal life in heaven? Not hardly. How often do we hear of good people in trouble? Even celebrities experience marital problems, depression, drug use, or financial ruin. These things can happen to anyone, no matter how much good they’ve done.
Why Not Just Do As Santa Claus Says?
So why not just be good for goodness sake? Because actually, we ourselves are not good, so how can we do good? And what we think of as good is not that great. Our standards are incredibly low, compared to God’s. Next, it’s hard to be good! It takes effort to serve others without tiring, so if we are to be good, we’re going to need something besides sheer will-power and lots of money. And more often than not, without the power of Christ, our good becomes self-serving and counter-productive to actually doing good for others.
In the book of Matthew, we see a story about a rich man who asks Jesus about being good. In the middle of his teaching ministry, a rich man approaches Jesus and eagerly says, Teacher, what good things should I do to get eternal life? (Mt 19:16)
This sounds like a logical question even to us today; God, what should I do to be good? I want to be good. Good is popular. Good is getting a lot of credit lately. Oprah does good. And people like it when you’re good. It warms hearts and brings people together. And for the most part, isn’t that what religion is about, how to be good? Isn’t good--well, good?
The problem with the idea that being good --is good enough is this:
We’re not good.
Not even close.
We’re Not Good?
We’re not good because we’re terribly flawed and let’s face it, you cannot make good stuff from flawed stuff. As mentioned above, we are all born into sin because of Adam’s downfall. Because I am born into sin, my natural state is to do wrong. A great description of this comes from an author I read that said:
We are sinners because of our nature; it’s not just that we commit sins. I have a pet, and he barks because he is a dog. It’s in his nature to do so. (Speaking In Doctrines, Posted by C-LOS - October 29th, 2010)
I love where the author says; it’s not just that we commit sins that makes us a sinner. This is a key distinction here, because so many people are fooled into thinking that doing good=being a good person. We must accept that we are flawed and imperfect people. I’ve never met a person who can claim perfection in anything, and we seem to be content with that as a society. As Christians, we should be quick to agree and point out that even knowing Jesus Christ doesn’t change this. We will always be flawed and desire to do sinful things in this world, it’s in our nature to do so.
God’s Standard is Too High to Achieve.
The second problem with the idea that being a good person, is good enough, is that God’s standard of good, is impossibly high. God is perfect and without sin. We are not perfect and sinful. God’s standard is perfection. We are imperfect and incapable of reaching that standard. Isaiah knew this when he lamented in his book, We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.
So because good is such a lofty goal in the eyes of God, we could never hope to even reach the first few steps towards it.
Psalm 53:2,3 says, God looks down from heaven to see if there are any who understand...EVERYONE has turned away..there is no one who does good, not EVEN ONE.
Romans 3:12, all have turned away ...there is no one who does good, not EVEN ONE.
This is reflected in the response that Jesus gives to the rich man from the Matthew passage when he says, Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only One who is good.
Jesus then goes on to get at the heart of the rich man’s issue. He lists the requirements of living a good life in the eyes of the Lord, living by the commandments. To which the rich man responds, I’ve done these since I was a kid, what else should I do? At this, Jesus cuts straight to the heart of his failures and announces that if he wants to be perfect, he should sell all his valued possessions and follow him. To which the man walks away sad, and incapable of doing. So often we think that we are willing to do good, but our flesh is incapable of really living up to God’s complete standards.
God is perfect.
We are not.
But, I See Good People.
How can the Bible say that no one is good, if I see people who are non-believers doing good all the time?
Apart from God, we might feel inclined to do good works. But again these works do not offer us eternal life, and apart from God, we will be incapable of sustaining goodness. The article from Speaking In Doctrine also gives a good explanation on why;
[because we are all sinners, we don’t naturally seek]… after God but [we] may do a great job seeking after the benefits of God. For example, someone may want peace in their life and attend church activities but do not want to repent from their sin. Their seeking is lead by a self-fulfilling desire rather than a desire to honor God. True God-seeking will only come when our heart is changed by the Holy Spirit and are given new desires. (Excerpt from, Speaking In Doctrines, Posted by C-LOS - October 29th, 2010)
What is Really Good Then?
If the goal of being good is to enter the kingdom of heaven, then we cannot expect a perfect God to allow us back into eternal life without repayment of the original sin. Doing so, would prove God unjust and unholy. Our God is just and He is holy, and therefore requires payment for sin. This payment has been made for us, through the death of Jesus Christ, a perfect life sacrificed. Through one man, God banished us from eternal life through the disobedience of Adam. And through one man, God in the flesh as Jesus Christ, he also redeemed us re-entrance. John MacArthur, a well known writer and minister once said that there are two religions in the world: human attainment and divine accomplishment.
All other religions in the world trust in some degree in human merit for salvation. Only Christianity understands that man is imperfect and only capable of reaching God through the gate of the only man to reach God’s standards.
The difference between doing good as a non-Christian and doing good as a Christian is that the Christian good works are the inspired deeds of a life striving to please God first and not man. The fruits of love and service come as a by-product from accepting and seeking after a life lived pursuing Jesus as the gate into heaven. Doing good works never gains our entry into heaven, because we are not good, our standards are too low, and we are incapable of sustaining good intentions. Instead, eternal life in heaven is given by the grace of God; a free gift from the God that understands us, because He created us. The grace to enter the kingdom of heaven because of who God is: